A pivotal dimension of COVID-19 has been the classification of certain work(ers) as essential. In a dialogue with Sara Stevano, lead author of “Essential for What? A Global Social Reproduction View on the Re-organisation of Work during the COVID-19 Pandemic,” respondents discuss their own research on essential work.
- 0:00 Introduction
- 0:50 Panel begins
- 10:56 – 12:00 Sara Stevano talks about how feminist political economy can help us to understand how social reproduction is also essential work.
- 16:50 – 19:00 Sara Stevano argues that essential work as a term is both political and fungible. This demonstrates a lack of consensus in terms of what can be classified as essential work.
- 23:10 – 25:00 Sara Stevano illuminates how the official classifications of essential work used during the COVID-19 pandemic suffer from 3 key biases: a productivist bias, a Western bias that excludes informal workers (like street venders), and a nationalist bias (excluding migrant workers).
- 31:15 – 31:55 Michele Dickerson highlights the challenges in using of the “essential” label but argues that the essential worker label has made visible previously invisible forms of devalued work. Even if “essential worker” are not valued differently in a post-pandemic era, she says that it will be impossible to unsee what we have experienced during the pandemic.
- 40:25 – 41:07 Michele Dickerson proposes an excessive profits tax as a way to respond to the economic inequalities laid bare, and exacerbated, by the pandemic. In this scenario, companies would be taxed on profits gained because of the pandemic, and these taxes would be distributed to the workers who made those profits possible.
- 1:02:00 – 1:04:20 Sharmila Rudrappa asks us to think about essential workers rather than essential work.